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NEWSLETTERShifting the cost of obtaining a degree more and more on to students
Around the world, the cost of enrolling in higher education and continuing on with postgraduate studies varies enormously from country to country – although in many places the cost is on the rise.
Increasingly, governments of all political persuasions have decided that students must contribute more. In this special edition of University World News our writers describe how cheap or increasingly expensive it is to earn a degree and how much debt students will end up accumulating.
“Rising tuition fees are turning students into consumers and teachers into customer service providers,” declares Erin Nordal from the European Students’ Union, while Claire Callender of Birkbeck, University of London, describes what is happening in Britain as “a grand social experiment with uncertain and unknown outcomes, and unforeseen consequences”.
Even in the developing world, governments are asking more of their university students. Higher education consultant Carlos Olivares writes that after becoming the first country in Latin America to introduce tuition fees, Chile’s government has pledged to scrap them. But universities there wonder if this will lead to a less effective, lower quality higher education system and ask who it will benefit most? That is a question that many others elsewhere around the globe would also like to know.
Geoff Maslen – Acting Global Editor
NEWS: Our correspondents worldwide report
A new plan to lure foreign students with generous scholarships by China’s eastern Jiangsu province, host to a number of foreign branch campuses, has sparked anger in the province over resources being directed towards “wealthy foreigners” while Chinese students struggle with a rising fee burden.
UNITED STATESLance Lambert, The Chronicle of Higher Education
One could be excused for thinking the value of a university or college degree is in a downward spiral. With overall student-loan debt topping US$1 trillion and tuition racing upward, to graduates facing high levels of under-employment and stagnating wages, it might appear college simply isn't worth it. But a new study by two researchers with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York concludes the opposite is true: The value of a bachelor degree is near an all-time high.
UNITED KINGDOMBrendan O’Malley
British government Business Secretary Vince Cable has warned that tuition fees could rise further in the next Parliament if the Conservatives’ plans to make £7 billion (US$11.2 billion) cuts in public spending are implemented. Cable, a member of the Liberal Democrats, also predicted cuts in student maintenance grants and a lowering of the income threshold for repayment of student loans.
Students in French universities pay among the lowest fees in Europe. But although education ministers claim that, despite austerity, funding for student benefits has kept up with purchasing power, student organisations say the cost of starting the new academic year for students is up to 2% higher than last year.
All of Germany’s federal states have now done away with general tuition fees at public-funded institutions. However, the view is still held by some that fees ought to provide an extra source of income for universities.
Despite being one of the world's largest economies, Japan is reporting a record number of dropouts among university students who cite financial difficulties.
SOUTH AFRICAMunyaradzi Makoni
The decline in government funding of higher education, along with rapidly rising costs of the different services and products that universities have to provide, have led to steady increases in student outlays over the last decade. There are no indications that costs will go down, neither are there signals that one day university education will be free – as called for by some student association groups.
Rising university fees for international students are casting a cloud over Singapore’s future as an Asian regional hub for international students – particularly from the rest of Asia. This is despite many parents in the region believing that paying for education is a good investment.
With the cost of university education rising faster than inflation and increasing sums taken out in loans, more and more students are defaulting on their loan repayments. For some, this means being barred from leaving the country.
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UNITED STATESLachlan Murdoch
America’s higher education system comprises around 4,300 degree-granting institutions that enrol nearly 18 million undergraduate students. The costs these students pay for getting a degree vary markedly between the public and private institutions, with those in public colleges and universities facing substantially lower fees as well as fewer and smaller loans to repay.
A study of changes in higher education financing in nine European countries, that included the impact of higher student fees, uncovered little evidence of a fall-off in demand resulting from universities charging students more.
The decision by the British government to allow universities in England to increase tuition fees could put students off studying, or it may be financially sustainable. It is not guaranteed that it will save the government any money either. The problem is that it will be many years before the consequences are known.
After becoming the first country in Latin America to introduce tuition fees, Chile’s government has pledged to move towards scrapping them. But universities wonder if this will lead to a less effective, lower quality higher education system and who it will benefit most?
Rising tuition fees are turning students into consumers and teachers into customer service providers. This dilutes the quality of higher education, goes against its very purpose and excludes large sectors of society who cannot afford the debt studying might entail.
The cost of expanding higher education student enrolment is mainly being covered by private institutions because the government prioritises its spending on schools. If fee increases occur and graduates are unable to find jobs, disillusionment with higher education could set in.
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OECD – EducationThe cost of getting a higher education degree
As part of this special coverage on what it costs the world’s students to obtain a degree, the following articles are based on information drawn from various chapters in the OECD report, Education at a Glance 2014, released last month.
These edited extracts describe the fees and other charges that students – domestic and foreign – face in attending tertiary education institutions in the different member countries and, in some cases, those outside the OECD.
University World News is grateful to the OECD for providing copyright clearance to allow us to publish extracts from the report. Note that there is no charge for downloading the report and readers can locate more of the data online. The Excel spreadsheets used to create the tables and charts are also freely available via the Statlinks system provided throughout the report.
The data on earnings in Education at a Glance 2014 point to a widening gap between the educational ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’. Across OECD countries, the difference in income from employment between adults without upper secondary education and those with a tertiary degree continues to grow.
The cost of higher education and the best way to support students in paying for that education are among the most hotly debated public policy topics in education today, according to the latest OECD report Education at a Glance 2014. The 600-page report says the level of tuition fees charged by tertiary institutions – as well as the level and type of financial assistance countries provide through their student support systems – can greatly influence access to and equity in tertiary education.
Many countries have similar goals for tertiary education, such as strengthening the knowledge economy, increasing access for students, encouraging high completion rates, and ensuring the financial stability of their higher education systems, according to the OECD’s latest Education at a Glance report. Yet countries differ dramatically in the way the cost of higher education is shared among governments, students and their families, and other private entities – and in the financial support they provide to students.
The financial support that students receive during their studies cannot be solely analysed in terms of the proportion who take out loans. The amount of support also depends on the size of the public loans, according to the OECD report Education at a Glance 2014.
At the tertiary level, public expenditure per student in both public and private institutions averaged US$9,221 in OECD countries in 2012, the Education at a Glance report says. But the amount varied from about US$2,000 in Chile to more than US$17,000 in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden – the four countries where the share of private spending is small or negligible.
National policies regarding tuition fees and financial aid to students generally cover all students studying in a country’s education institutions, say the compilers of the OECD publication Education at a Glance 2014. But differences in the fees that local and international students are charged, and the financial help each group receives, can impact on the flows of international students.
As part of the OECD’s ongoing efforts to make its data and analysis more accessible, as well as easier to understand and use, a team at the organisation’s directorate for education and skills has created a new webpage that allows users to compare countries on a range of indicators.
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